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George Nelson

Career Portfolio


OSR business solutions

project 01

Engaged by the Gold Coast Institute of TAFE, School of Business and Computing, to conduct a feasibility study on potential new revenue markets for the school.


An Environmental Scan was conducted investigating the conduct and activities of all Australian Universities and TAFES (including private tertiary institutions), as well as a sample benchmark study of several leading global institutions. After synthesising the data a conclusive report was delivered to the Head of School with the recommendation of five possible market opportunities. 


The Institute elected to pursue one of these recommended solutions which was ‘corporate training’ resulting in the creation of a corporate training brand that I managed as a green field opportunity, achieving a 15% profit or $3million in first eighteen months. In the second year the concept was expanded to over fifteen institutes in the Queensland TAFE network and generated near $10 million. 


In building this business strategy and managing the brand I engaged and aligned the operation to local government agendas and local industry requirements. Boosting local community and economic growth with robust business and employment initiatives. Upskilling through the brand was very popular (over 700 in twelve months) as was the credit recognition given to employees in industry who were able to gain a qualification while working with senior consultants. 

project 02

southbank institute cultural and fiscal transformation strategy 

As the Head of School, at Southbank Institute I was presented with serious challenges. A fractured staff culture that was highly unionised amplified by an established mistrust in management due to previous leadership. The Institute had poor financial performance and was haemorrhaging nine million dollars. Student experience was poor with minimal online learning retention or completion and no industry connectivity. This was further complicated by an International Education market that was in a dive with significant reduction of revenue. Just before my contract commencement in July the entire senior management team had been terminated. The challenge was to increase culture and profitability and do so quickly.


In my attempt to address the challenges I initiated regular staff industry meetings, which gave the staff a voice (initially of complaint and concern), which grew to strong advocacy empowering the staff. I initiated a redesign of programs for greater inclusivity, non-linear learning and profitability including online programs redesign using non-liner learning modality. I introduced a Student Ambassador program, which gave students the chance to build brand in themselves while representing the school. I established an ‘Extension’ program inviting leaders from the Brisbane basin to coach, mentor and give seminars. This lead to staff being coached by local CEO’s and GMs providing peer level moderation. Staff were recognised as industry leaders not TAFE teachers. 


As a result of my change agency and management skills, the culture of staff shifted from voiceless complainant and disaffected to vocal and proud. Within the first twelve weeks of my tenure and in-line with the first fiscal quarter review, it was reported my ten million dollar annual budget was achieved along with an additional six million, nine hundred thousand dollars in revenue. Expenditure was reduced from 32% to 10% delivering a clean profit margin of 59% or $5.9 million within twelve weeks. Staff and Student satisfaction was on the incline with significantly noted improvements in student attendance and completion. 

project 03

big grin

In decline of the GFC and situated on the Gold Coast we ideated a way to support local enterprise. Most being linked to the recreation, leisure and tourism sector we ideated and launched An online department store of memories and experiences. 


We recruited many local experience providers across various industries like health, adventure, sport, fitness, self-development, and gifts. We promoted the website experiences on TV, Radio and internet and ran various publicity activities including the local number one breakfast radio show being served by a singing butler. 


Big Grin became very well known on the locality and served to support many small and niche enterprises with increased customer traffic. 

project 04

innovation and high growth incubator

te ohaka (the nest) 

Te Ōhaka is an ecosystem-powered hub in Christchurch that connects, nurtures, supports, and promotes high-growth start-ups, innovators, and early stage entrepreneurs.

This is where Christchurch’s start-up community lives. 

Te Ōhaka – Centre for growth and Innovation – is an ecosystem-powered hub located in Christchurch that connects, nurtures, supports and promoted New Zealand’s high-growth start-ups and innovation-led early stage ventures. The ecosystem includes regional and national stakeholders. The entrepreneur-rish, progressive and well-networked partners, community as well as faculty and student body of Ara institute of Canterbury make this a world leading facility. 

Te Ōhaka was launch in 2019 as the outward facing innovation installation for Christchurch. It was a major strategic milestone of the innovation installation I was responsible for at Ara Institute as the Deputy Chief Executive Academic, Innovation and Research. 

project 05

design institute of australia

As a Committee member for the Design Institute of Australia (DIA) it was decided that I would be responsible for the launch of a Gold Coast chapter of the DIA. The challenge was that there was a substantial lack of membership numbers from that region. It also suffered from being perceived as a cultural backwater. The aim was to overcome these challenges, increase membership and develop a recognised brand for the design practice that contributes significantly to the local and state economy. 


My first endeavour was the establishment of a Gold Coast chapter sub-committee made up of educators, practitioners and leaders. Together we decided on a seven-by-seven event style. This would bring seven local practitioners who would speak on their practice for seven minutes. Three events were then scheduled. The first event was a casual presentation targeted as the emerging designer and student. The second event targeted as the silver foxes or those who has an established design practice. The final event of the year was a Gala event celebrating and announcing the newly established community of Design Practitioners on the Gold Coast.


The result was a successful launch of the Gold Coast Chapter of the DIA. I was able to bring together a community of design practitioners, educators and aspirational emerging talent. I lead the subcommittee. I was able to raise over two hundred and fifty thousand dollars in sponsorship. I was able to secure resources, promotion and event locations as ‘in-kind’ sponsorship. Each event was a sell-out. I was able to unveil a very healthy and unrecognized design community on the Gold Coast and quantify its contribution to the local Gold Coast and state economy. A total of over three hundred Gold Coast members joined the DIA as a result. 


This case is exemplary of dynamic communications strategy and people relationships integrating the design of social and relationship marketing. Creating the perceived value of membership though events which provide information, education and connection through a network of practitioners is a strong pull. It also provides for certain practitioners to be highlighted for their emergent initiative, their prolonged success in practice and to celebrate the industry as a whole. 


The design of the seven-by-seven event was critical in the creation of value perception for the different audience types. The strategic aim for DIA was to increase membership. Membership has to have value. The primary focus being on practitioners and their congregation provides a valuable currency for sponsors too. A ready-made market of designers ready to consume supplier messages, discounts and offers. An internal market strategy was created. 

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project 06

air kick off

As the Deputy Chief Executive Academic Innovation and Research (AIR) I initiated my appointment with a strategy session to identify the needs for the division. It became quite clear that there was no communication strategy in place. No one source of truth, no one archive of decisions, communication and critical information that staff could rely on. This lead to different schools doing this in different ways. Although innovative it was expensive and inefficient to have academic teams doing things differently as from a moderation practice it lacked comparative intelligence and cross disciplinarily. 


As a result a communication strategy complement the AIR strategy which includes a number f initiatives such as a regular fortnightly email AIRmail, informal chats, coffee with the DCE, senior and middle management meetings as well as a semester conference for all Academic staff called the AIR Kick off. The Kick off was aligned to the institutes value of "Inspire". The Kick off was a whole day broken into three sections. 


Section One was the welcome and key messages from Executive and guests. Section Two was the workshops to do with compliance and setting up the semester ahead. It also encouraged cross disciplinarily. Section Three was a series of seminars run by the Academic staff. 


It was very successful in achieving the values of connect, respect and inspire. A good way to begin the semester and also to show the staff are valued and connected.



design strategist, innovation transformation curator and educator

Experienced Chief Executive Officer and Board Member with a demonstrated history of working in the Education, Marketing and Advertising, Design, Public Service and Consulting industries. Skilled in Governance, Innovation, Start-Ups, Disruption, Strategy, Emergent Enterprise, Agile/Digital Transformation, Negotiation/Diplomacy, Coaching, Government, Ideation, Strategic Design and Design Thinking. An authority in non-linear, conceptual and constellational enterprise. Global thought leader and speaker on Innovation.


A strong business development professional with a Masters in International Business Law, Graduate Certificate in Digital Design and a passion for life long learning.



education and training

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Copyright © George Nelson




I am creative. I am a designer. I am a humanist.

My passion is to design and drive change that makes a difference in the world.

I love to ask the simple questions, reframe logic, challenge the status quo or accepted norm…

this is where the future can be created.


I combine future-focused Design Intelligence (over 93 design tools) with strategy

to deliver innovation, transformation, disruption and human-centric solutions.


I love to shape enterprise and the social fabric of our society

by engaging an audience and surpassing their expectations.

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